Waltham Patch: Councilor To Host Meeting On Waltham Community Fields Farm

By Jenna Fisher MARCH 5TH 2019— Waltham Fields Community Farm is one of the last working farms in the greater Boston area and one that has at within its mission to help others. But the future of the farm, after the farm’s landlord announced its intention to close the farm’s office space, is in question.

Following pushback from the community, the University of Massachusetts, the farm’s landlord, offered to move the farm’s field station main office to rented space on Mount Ida campus in Newton (which it just acquired) by the end of 2019. Then, last fall, it came out that the university and city officials were in closed-door talks about the possibility of having the city acquire the property.

Some four months and one petition later, several city councilors have said they support the idea of the Waltham acquiring the farm. But it’s unclear just where things stand. Residents and supporters of keeping the farm in Waltham as a working farm are trying to figure out what’s next.

Enter Ward 6 Councilor Sharline Nabulime.

She’s hosting a town-hall style community meeting to talk about the future of the farm at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 9, in the Government Center auditorium.

“It’s going to take our collective voice and unwavering support for our last [remaining] farm to win this battle. We are in for the battle of our lives – this farm is our community’s livelihood,” Nabulime said in a post on social media.

Farm employees and volunteers have asked supporters to share their concern with City Council and the mayor as well as State Rep. John Lawn and Sen. Mike Barrett. And they’re asking to make their concerns known to UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, too.

Nabulime said after an outpouring from constituents and residents, she sent the UMass chancellor a letter in early January requesting a meeting about the future of the farm and “asked that he conduct the land acquisition process in an open and transparent manner which should end with the City of Waltham acquiring the land to keep as a farm.”

Shortly after, she met with a representative of the school.

Now, Nabulime is inviting the community, the chancellor, the mayor, Waltham representatives, and all the City Councilors to join in a discussion about how that went and air concerns of the farm’s future, catch everyone up to speed on what’s happened so far, and to hear what the tenants at the UMass Field Station have to say about the process. Nabulime said she hopes the meeting will also mobilize support for the farm and help take supporters in a clear direction on what’s next.

“This goes beyond the notice UMass Amherst gave the tenants to vacate the administrative building. It cuts at the very core of a community’s food source and food equity,” said Nabulime. “It cuts at the core of a century long history of innovation and agriculture that must be preserved as part of the history of our great city. The farm is the most scared place in all of Waltham.”

The university acquired the property by way of Cornelia Warren’s will at her passing in 1922.

The site was her family’s where they produced dairy, hay and vegetables. When Warren died, the farm was divided into several parcels by the trustees of her estate by way of a deed. Since then, the UMass Field Station has been a mecca for gardeners, farmers, breeders and horticultural research.

Provisions of the Warren deed have lapsed, making the acquisition tricky.

“If this historic land is developed, Waltham will lose an incredible and irreplaceable part of its history and green space,” according to the land trust.

Councilors Diane LeBlanc and Robert Logan have previously told Patch they’d be supportive of a possible deal that would save the farm.

“Like all of you, I would like to see the farm remain as it is; a farm and the full site rehabilitated to continue the work of the non-profits housed therein,” said Nabulime.


Jenna Fisher can be reached at Jenna.Fisher@patch.com or by calling 617-942-0474. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@ReporterJenna)